Am I the only one finding it difficult to decide if clothes are a ‘need’ or a ‘want’?


I recently found myself loitering with intent outside a ladies’ changing room, which might seem a wholly inappropriate admission, and definitely out of place in a money blog…but bear with me!

It’s all part of my desire to cut my spending, in order to boost my retirement savings.

I don’t need convincing of the benefits of spending less, financially and emotionally. I really don’t want extra stuff, and am trying to de-clutter. But putting it into practice isn’t easy!

Tip 1 – avoid shopping!

I’ll confess – I like clothes, and clothes shopping. So, to save money, I don’t go often, and it’s a tactic that works. I can’t shut my eyes to all of the people around me, looking great in the latest styles, but if I don’t actually go to the shops, I’m not tempted.

‘Need’ or ‘want’?

However, it’s the cross-over between ‘need’ and ‘want’ that causes me the difficulty with clothes (and shoes!). We can’t walk around naked, and things wear out, so at some point we have to hit the shops.

Sometimes I’m lucky. For example, I needed new boots recently. They’d worn out, and I managed to find a new pair, that fit, at a reasonable price. There was no stress, and I’m the happy owner of a new pair of boots.

However, most of the time I find this isn’t the case.

Partly it’s because I’m fussy, or I can’t find things that fit. I need new summer shoes, but despite trying on about a million pairs in the last few weeks, I can’t find a single pair that I like and that fit. The combination of being picky, and actually wanting to be able to walk in comfort, has so far reduced my options to zero.

However, increasingly I’m finding it difficult to decide if I really need an item, or if I just want it. For example, I might need a new T-shirt. But I can buy a new T-shirt for a couple of quid, or I can buy a new t-shirt for £30. Which is where the line between ‘need’ and ‘want’ gets blurred, because guess what? The couple of quid t-shirt might do the job but, more often than not, it’s the £30 t-shirt I want.

How much of a premium should I pay for loving an item?

Financially, it looks initially as if the cheap top is the better option, but what if I don’t much like it? What if it’s ok, but I end up not really wearing it much, and I’d be happier wearing the £30 top? If I love the pricier one, then the pleasure I get from wearing it is probably worth the extra investment. I find myself trying to decide just how much more I love the pricier option, to help me decide which to buy, and it’s exhausting! Is this a normal part of moving to a more frugal way of life, or am I over-thinking each and every purchase?

Tip 2 – think about it for a few days!

Tactics I’ve successfully employed include the ‘think about it and come back in a few days’ approach. Quite often I’ve found I’m really not that bothered, and I’m relieved I didn’t buy it.

Tip 3 – wait for the sales – but there are pitfalls!

I also keep an eye out for sales, and have bought some more expensive items that have suddenly become affordable. One problem I’ve encountered with this though is that if you change your mind you can’t always get a refund. I’m lumbered at present with a credit note for a more expensive shop, only I can’t find anything I want and can afford to buy.

Difficulty in paying full-price

Another is that the gradual shift in my way of thinking, which means I’m finding it increasingly difficult to spend money on potentially ‘frivolous’ items such as clothes, means that I’m finding it increasingly hard to ‘allow’ myself to buy anything full price. I’m constantly silently sucking in my breath and mentally thinking ‘Ooh, that’s expensive, maybe I can find something in a sale’. Somewhere along the line, my thinking about spending less has resulted in a change in mind-set. Maybe this is a good thing?


Inevitably, it also means I’m missing out. If you’re using the ‘think carefully before you buy’ approach to shopping, it often doesn’t work well alongside the ‘bag a bargain in the sales’ approach.

Which leads me nicely back to the changing room I mentioned at the start! I spotted a solitary top hanging on the rail, which just happened to be in my size, reduced to bargain price. I liked it, but it was a ‘going out’ top rather than an ‘everyday essential’ top, so I moved along, mulling it over in my mind. Only to then watch another lady move in, whisk it off the rack, and escort it into said changing room. Cue my hanging around, waiting for her to emerge, to see if the top would be discarded, or marched off to the cash desk. Sadly for me, it was the latter and I made my exit after watching the sale top bagged up for somebody else. It’s not the first time I’ve left empty-handed, and regretted it later.

Do other people find themselves mentally going around in circles, working out if they love the higher priced item enough to justify spending on it?

Image: Pixabay: MabelAmber

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6 Responses

  1. Ms. Montana says:

    It does get easier! Hang in there. This summer during our 6 week road trip I only brought 10 items of clothing. I felt like a whole new world of clothes was revealed when we got home. Maybe try limiting your wardrobe to 20 item for 30 days. You might be more excited about the clothes you already have when it’s over.

    • Sarah says:

      Wow, really only 10 items for 6 weeks? That is impressive! I never have successfully packed light, but that is another struggle! I will definitely look at your idea of limiting my wardrobe for a month – I already find myself wearing the same favourite clothes over and over, so it will be an interesting exercise to see just how many different clothes I do wear over that period. I’m reassured to hear it does get easier, thanks!

  2. weenie says:

    Since I started saving for early retirement, my clothes shopping has been absolutely minimal – I have only bought one item (a work top) so far this year (not counting tights for work or a couple of new bras!). It’s my friend’s wedding in October and as it’s the same bunch of friends who have attended other weddings I’ve been to, I can’t recycle an old outfit – I’m going to have to go shopping!

    On the rare occasions I do go shopping, 9 times out of 10, if I will opt for the cheaper item. My dilemma is more whether I ‘need’ that item or not and despite thinking of my full wardrobes, sometimes the temptation is hard to resist. The solution is to not step foot into clothes shops unless absolutely necessary, eg for friend’s wedding!

    • Sarah says:

      I’m curious to know whether you have missed buying clothes this year? One item is very good going! Special events are always tricky, it’s easy to buy something ‘posh’ that hangs unworn in the wardrobe for months or years on end. If you can’t borrow something (my friend has just done this and saved a fortune!), possibly you can find something that isn’t overly wedding-y so that you can wear it going out for a nice meal as well? Otherwise just enjoy getting something new, and you’ll have something extra for next time!

      • weenie says:

        I have to say that I haven’t missed buying clothes as I was never really a clothes shopper. True, my wardrobes are full but I think I was buying really more out of habit rather than out of enjoyment! The good thing is that everything still pretty much fits me as I’ve stayed around the same size. If anything, some items are a little too big as I’m like half a size smaller I think from a few years back!

        Tonight, I went out with my friends wearing a top which is around 6 years old – none of my friends batted an eyelid so, I’m still getting away with not buying any new going out stuff!

        I will most certainly be looking for a wedding outfit which I can wear for other formal events – really need to get a couple of wears out of it to get my money’s worth!

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